Truth, Belief, & Faith
We have discussed the fact that we can never be certain anything is true. We have considered the limitations on human understanding which make all human assertions of fact simply statements of belief. Does all this mean that what we believe to be true but cannot prove is any less true? Again, the answer is no. If something is true it is true whether or not you prove, believe in, or have even thought about, its truth.
Literally billions of ideas and beliefs can be suggested to be true. We can propose assumptions which will send us off in any direction we might wish to go. Every day we see people who are certain of the absolute truth of their beliefs, never realizing they have talked themselves into accepting as absolutely true that which is, and must be, based on their assumptions. We can argue that we are descendants of Martians, that inanimate objects talk to each other, etc., etc., etc.
Since we cannot know whether or not something or someone exists beyond our perception, we cannot know if the wildest of ideas may in fact be true somewhere outside our current existence. Yet even though "anything" may be true, we must not allow ourselves to apply logical arguments to first "prove", and then "disprove", fundamental beliefs about the nature and meaning of life. What we want is for you to put aside your assumptions and beliefs; take a journey into your heart, mind, and soul; and then decide what you want to believe is true.
What is true is true. What then is the difference in believing something to be true, and proving something is true, if indeed the belief is true? The difference is not in the truth of the matter, for the belief itself is either true or not regardless of any belief as to its truth. Rather the difference lies in the realization that what appears absolutely true may not be true.
That realization, and the humility that should accompany it, emphasizes the importance of reviewing your beliefs. If we cannot prove anything, how do we determine what is true? If the best we can do is believe something is true, what good is that? The answer lies in what we just said, if what we believe to be true is true, then proof is not necessary for that truth.
We have been talking as though we start with the belief that everything we seek to prove is untrue, and then go from there. The fact is that we have built into our existence a set of assumptions that certain things are true, assumptions we base our strongest beliefs on. For example, though nothing can be proven beyond doubt, few would argue the world they live in does not actually exist, or a ball thrown into the air will not fall back to earth, or people do not grow older. Few doubt or question the solid reality of any of the events that make up everyday life, from the proposition the sun will rise to the reality of everyday tasks associated with living.
All you are, all you have been, everything about your life contributes to your belief in the truth of millions upon millions of things. Your life, and your perception of it, is an incredibly intricate web of observations, feelings, and experiences, all parts of your existence, none divisible, all making you, you. Perhaps humans have some inexplicable intuition that gives them insight into what is actually true, perhaps not. The fact is that all anyone can do is to use all the abilities they have to determine what is true. All you can do is to think, and analyze, and test, and rethink, until you believe something is true.
In many cases the scientific method serves us well when we search for the "truth". This is particularly so when we sort through results of objective tests to analyze which drug is most effective, what car is best, etc. In other cases logic proves inadequate and "feelings" seem to be a better guide.
Philosophy and religion are not suited to scientific inquiry. Because they deal with that which is beyond human perception, philosophical and religious beliefs must come from within each individual, and must be based on all that makes an individual a unique human being. Such beliefs grow when experiences of life combine with that illusive quality that makes each of us the singular person we are.
How much, if any, of the process of determining fundamental beliefs is guided by insight, and how much is a product of heredity and environment, is a question without answer. I have seen many people paralyzed by the fear that what they believed to be true might be false. Over the years I have come to believe that if anyone puts a sincere effort into determining what is true, and what is good, they will succeed. Even though they will never be able to "prove" anything, what they find themselves believing to be true and good will be, perhaps even if not perfectly correct, what actually is true and good. There is, of course, no proof for such a belief, yet for me it is fundamentally true.
I am not suggesting that someone who has determined his or her answer to a question before searching for it will ever find the true answer. Those who want to prove their point, even if it is only to themselves, will inevitably mold everything to fit their answer. With varying degrees of discomfort, they will reach their previous conclusion every time.
What I am saying is that I am convinced that those who search their hearts, minds, and souls to understand life will find themselves believing certain things to be true and right. Perhaps these more or less inherent beliefs are simply products of human existence and thought. Perhaps, however, they are insights into profound fundamental truths.
What about the times when you feel strongly that something is or might be true, but are uncertain of those feelings because, to some degree, your beliefs lie outside human perception or experience? Beyond mere "belief" is something called "faith". When our beliefs are strong we may choose to have faith in their truth.
What then is "faith"? In part faith is having an intense conviction what you believe to be true is in fact true, but it is more than that. Real faith in the truth of something is a product of your total being. It is not only what you believe to be true, but what you want to be true. Faith is a total commitment by you to believe that what you think should be true is true, that what you think should be right and good is in fact right and good.
You cannot have faith in something or someone simply because there is nothing better to believe in. Faith cannot be based on negative choices, but must be based on a real, strong, sometimes total, desire that what you believe should be true actually is true. You must want what you have faith in to be true. Since nothing can be fully proved or disproved unless truth has been somehow revealed, that which people have faith in is, for them, that which is true.
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